Ed­ward VI records his fa­ther’s demise with cool de­tach­ment, 1547

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The rather scruffy hand­writ­ing you see here be­longs to Ed­ward VI, doc­u­ment­ing in his diary (or

‘chron­i­cle’) the fall-out from his fa­ther Henry VIII’s death in 1547. The first page of the young king’s chron­i­cle ex­plains that his un­cle, Ed­ward Sey­mour, rode to the me­dieval palace of Hert­ford to take him to his sis­ter El­iz­a­beth’s residence at the palace of En­field. It was here, writes Ed­ward – re­fer­ring to him­self in the third per­son – “the death of his fa­ther was first showed him, and the same day the death of his fa­ther was showed in Lon­don”.

Ed­ward and El­iz­a­beth are said to have wept in each other’s arms when they were told of their fa­ther’s death, but Ed­ward recorded noth­ing of his per­sonal feel­ings. What we are left with is his rather de­tached ob­ser­va­tion that Henry’s death caused “great lamen­ta­tion and weep­ing” in Eng­land’s cap­i­tal city.

The rest of Ed­ward’s Chron­i­cle fo­cuses on the po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary events of his reign, re­veal­ing that he took a keen in­ter­est in the busi­ness of gov­ern­ment and pol­icy-mak­ing. This, and other pa­pers he wrote on fi­nance, trade, state and diplo­macy, in­di­cate that – though he be­came king at nine years old – Ed­ward pos­sessed the tal­ent to be­come a great ruler. But his reign was one of un­ful­filled po­ten­tial, for Ed­ward con­tracted tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and died in 1553, aged 15.

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